Anyone that’s known me for a few years, knows I’ve always wanted to be an NFL GM. I think I would do a damn good job. That’s because I’ve studied, I’ve researched and I’ve crunched ALLLLLL the numbers.
And I got a good gut feeling for this (jk guys, you don’t want to hear that from your NFL’s front office, I’ll tell you why soon.) The thing about team building, is there are good ways, and bad ways to go about things. The first most important thing is being able to have a clear picture of your team, and understand where you’re at compared to the rest of the league.
Are you the Kansas City Chiefs? Probably don’t need a great punter. Won’t be a difference maker. Are you the Green Bay Packers coming off an NFC championship loss? Might not need to take a fullback in today’s NFL.
Understanding where you’re at, goes a long way into planning your draft. But there are a ton of common themes that every team can follow. This Guide is designed to be printed by every NFL GM and brought into the War Room on Draft Night and when building their Big Boards prior.
I understand you guys have done this for many years, but park your pride at the door, and hear me out.
Some overall concepts of good team building and drafting:
Most important positions:
- Quarterback. There shouldn’t be a number 2,3, or 4. QB is that much more important to your team’s success than anything else.
- Cornerback. We have to stop the opposing quarterback. PFF data has shown time and time again, that great coverage is tougher on a quarterback than great pressure.
- Wide receiver. We need a playmaker for our quarterback. We need multiple playmakers actually. The goal of this position is to have enough varying skill sets, and speed, to keep defensive coordinators awake all week, not knowing how they’re going to stop us.
- Pass Rusher. Everyone loves pressuring the quarterback. So do I. A pass rusher doesn’t have to be an edge. I want members of the D-line that get pressure on the quarterback. I don’t want a 365 pound, 2-down run stuffer.
- Offensive Tackle. The goal of your offensive line is to be above average. You can’t be getting your quarterback killed, but this doesn’t have to be the strongest part of your team to be successful. I want to have the 8th-12th best offensive line in the league. I don’t want to be spending 22 million a year on Laremy Tunsil, but I can’t be letting my quarterback be killed.
The other positions I think are team dependent. The order is less important, but the skillsets are what matters. We want SPEED in today’s NFL. I don’t care about the 40 yard dash numbers, but could they easily stay with the receivers they cover? Can they make up ground on a quality break off the line of scrimmage by the receiver.
Whether your team uses the safety position or the linebacker position to cover the TE makes a difference to me in which position is more valuable. As long as we understand that running backs, tight ends, and run stuffing D-lineman and linebackers don’t have as big of an impact on teams’ wins and losses, we’re in a great spot to draft.
This is really important to me. There is a difference among positions when it comes to projecting the success at the next level. There are certain positions where I’m fine with targeting freak athletes because “they can be this”, but other positions, I want to have seen them produce at a high level in college.
Offensive lineman is the first position that comes to mind. Yes, there are only a few men on the planet that can be 6’7 345 and super athletic. But if he’s getting beat multiple times a game by an undrafted college player, I’m not spending a first round pick on that player. I don’t want projects at O-line.
This isn’t an end-all, be-all. It depends on the team and situation. But if I’m choosing between two prospects, I don’t want a project on my O-line.
Okay it’s the offseason. We have looked at our team, we have a coaching staff in place for the foreseeable future, and we have a clear plan on where we are and where we want to be. To me, the Draft should not be where a team goes to “fill holes” in their NFL roster. Sign a few players in the offseason, so you aren’t desperate to take a less valuable position during the draft.
Build your positional rankings first
This should be the job of your scouting team, but you can make your own tweaks. Have a team wide ranking system. How much do you value speed? How much do you value production in college vs strong teams? Vs weak teams? How much do you value size? Make it a math problem. Figure out your own equation and system that works for you.
Now do some research
Assign each scout on your team, 2-3 NFL teams to research their GM and scouting department. What are their tendencies? Is it Mike Mayock who loves Clemson kids? You know Belichick loves his SEC guys and his “specialist” can cover a certain position type guys.
Have everyone do research on the other GM’s, and make a big board for every other team in the NFL based on your research. Knowing how other teams value players is VITAL. Make a consensus big board, an average of all of them. This wont be used for you to make your picks, but to see if a team might trade up for a guy that many people like.
I’m not a huge fan of a non-positional big board. Take the best players, at the most valuable positions. Don’t be the Raiders who have no clue how the rest of the NFL values players.
Yes, if you LOVE someone, you can draft your guy, but understand you’ll only be right about 50-60% of the time. So accumulate picks, and know where your guys are most likely going to be picked.
Trading Up vs Trading Down
I have a pretty basic answer to this. Whenever you can trade back for a haul, it’s always the right thing for your franchise*. *Except when there’s a franchise quarterback on the board at your spot and you don’t have a top 10 NFL quarterback.
If I was an NFL GM, I’d have my pick ready, but I’d also be making calls, not just accepting them. I’d be known as the guy you want to call when you want to move up because I’m ready to make a deal.
We are only going to be right on our guys 50-60% of the time, so we want more guys drafted, to get more chances to be right.
If there’s a franchise quarterback there, and you aren’t jeopardizing your entire draft or drafts to come with picks, go get him. That’s all you need to know about trading up and down. Don’t trade up for a running back please. And if someone offers you a 2nd, 3rd and 3rd next year for the 21 overall pick, you do that in a heartbeat.
Trade down as often as you can. Draft a quarterback. Draft multiple corners and wide receivers. Have a great idea on where players will go. Accumulate picks. Have a plan. Take shots at valuable positions!